ComBase gains 27 members in B.C.

In a surprising series of moves during two months, 27 community newspapers have signed up to ComBase in British Columbia.

The 27 papers represent three major British Columbia newspaper chains: CanWest Global, Black Press and Madison Publishing. Both CanWest and Black Press have signed up 12 community newspapers each to the national readership research study and Madison has signed three.

The Black Press papers, which are all part of the MetroValley Newspaper Group (a subsidiary of Black Press), are located primarily in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, except for the Williams Lake Tribune, which is located in the interior of the province. The Black Press papers joined at the end of November, 2002. MetroValley Newspaper Group President Rick OÔÇÖConnor said at the time that the company has done readership research in the past through MarkTrend, a British Columbia research company. ÔÇ£With the advent of ComBase, we thought it was time to get some fresh research to give to our clients,ÔÇØ said OÔÇÖConnor. ÔÇ£We felt the best way of doing that was to join the effort on ComBase. ÔÇ£The efforts of Elena Dunn and the Canadian Community Newspapers Association have elevated the importance of ComBase in the minds of the advertising decision-makers to such a point that we felt it made sense for us to join,ÔÇØ he said.

DSA BaronÔÇÖs David Stanger, who serves as ComBase Chair, said when the Black Press papers joined that the results from ComBase may draw other larger media companies to the study. ÔÇ£I think we are going to see newspaper chains come on throughout the next 12 to 18 months as they review results in other markets and if they continue to get positive feedback from advertisers and agencies,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£At the end of the day, if the chains that arenÔÇÖt in hear from the chains that are in that they have been able to attribute an increase in sales to ComBase, that will be the most powerful thing that can occur for ComBase to continue to grow to its logical conclusion.ÔÇØ

As if to confirm his thoughts, in January CanWest signed up 12 papers from its VanNet group to ComBase. The papers include the Abbotsford Times, Burnaby Now., the Chilliwack Times., Coquitlam Now., the Delta Optimist., the Langley Advance., the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Times., the Royal City Record., the Richmond News., Surrey Now., the North Shore News and the Vancouver Courier. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs great ÔÇô another very important domino that fell for us is going to lead to other major markets participating,ÔÇØ said ComBase President Elena Dunn. ÔÇ£Maybe this will change some peopleÔÇÖs minds in Manitoba now that the two chains here are on board. ÔÇ£This is going to have a real ripple effect,ÔÇØ she said.

In June, 2002, 22 Manitoba papers had agreed to take part in the readership research project. Ultimately, all but one of the Manitoba papers backed out. ÔÇ£The CanWest papers joining also means that we have all three major markets in Canada ÔÇô Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver,ÔÇØ said Dunn. ÔÇ£Having these three markets is vitally important to any national study.ÔÇØ

Immediately after the CanWest papers joined, Madison Publishing Publisher Peter Kvarnstrom said that the CanWest move is extremely important to Madison, as VanNet represents MadisonÔÇÖs community newspapers for national advertising. Madison re-examined its papersÔÇÖ role in ComBase and within one week signed up three of its five British Columbia papers. The company signed up the Sechelt/Gibsons Coast Reporter, the Squamish Chief and the Powell River Peak to the national readership research program.

Peak Publisher Joyce Carlson said she is ÔÇÿvery excitedÔÇÖ that ComBase is coming to British ColumbiaÔÇÖs Lower Mainland. ÔÇ£I am happy to see ComBase because I feel it puts the assoc